Just updated my photography training calendar with some new Photo Treks at Buscot Park near Faringdon.
You can get more info and book your place here.
See you soon!
Continuing to learn is especially important in creative photography because there are so many different subject areas and photographic styles, not to mention the changes in technology. I try to continuously develop my own photography and, as today is my birthday, it’s time for a bit of reflection on some of the things I’ve learnt in the past year.
This shot, from an advanced studio photography course I attended, shows that sometimes you need lots of lights to get a great shot. The person was lit with just 2 lights, it was the bike that was the challenge. It was lit by light reflecting off a large white sheet that was itself lit with 5 lights. This technique gave a better quality of illumination on the bike’s shiny surfaces, and I’m using it in my commissioned work for clients.
Digital photography involves the use of computers, and these days keeping up to date with developments in image editing software is vital. I was happy with the composition of this shot of Niagara Falls from below, after all my “The Creative Eye” course includes sections on composition, but I wanted to add a bit more punch to the image. I used the latest version of Adobe Photoshop to make a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image from a single RAW file. It’s a technique I learned this year, and it’s great for giving more detail in the shadow areas while keeping the highlight detail.
Setting yourself photographic challenges is a great way to learn, and this year I challenged myself to take as many creative images as I could in 30 minutes. I blogged about this previously, and this is another image from that shoot. A simple shot of a wild strawberry taken with a 50mm Sigma macro lens. Getting effective simple shots takes a lot of practice.
Pushing the boundaries of your cameras is also a great way to learn. I use a Lumix FX-500 digital compact camera, and it’s a great photographic tool. It has a surprising close-up ability, and by experimenting I’ve found that it’s ideal for close up portraits. This shot, of a horse’s eye, shows that you don’t need to show the whole of the face to show the subject well. To me there’s a sadness in there.
This year I’ve also been inspired by other photographers’ work, and by other works of art. We can learn so much by looking at paintings, sculpture (and the way it’s displayed), architecture, film and TV. The newly revised Ashmolean museum in Oxford is fabulous, and I loved the way this sculpture was silhouetted against the sun on the window blinds.
Sometimes by being a photographer we learn things about subjects other than photography. I saw these through a “potting shed” window in the grounds of Chastleton House in Oxfordshire. At first glance they looked like eggs, although I did wonder why eggs would be there. They are in fact potatoes, and they are getting a good start to growing by being left in the sun for a while. They did look as if they were sunbathing!
If my learning this year has inspired you to learn then my “The Creative Eye” course could be ideal. The next course is on Sat 13th Nov 2010 at the Court Hill Centre near Wantage. Online sales have ended, but you can still book by calling 01793 783859.
Once again I’m pleased to report a successful Photo Trek at Buscot Park. It was last weekend and we had a “full house”. These photographic training events are great fun, and Buscot Park is a perfect venue for them. The group was terrific, with a wide range of photographic experience, and equipment ranging from a digital compact camera, to a digital SLR and lots of lenses. I assigned everyone their afternoon’s photographic projects, and we were off.
Once again, we started under the trees near the garden entrance. The exercise we do here is great for breaking the ice. It gets everyone off the “Fully Automatic” setting, and shows them the freedom that digital cameras give you. The rapid camera movement I’ve used here made for a fabulous off-centre swirl.
It has to be said that the weather at this Buscot Park Photo Trek wasn’t as good as it has been previously. The relatively bright sky made the exposure compensation exercise even more important. With this image of the garden entrance I tried to get as little of the sky in the shot as possible. Even though I did that, I had to use some positive Exposure Compensation to get the details right in the stonework.
Moving through to the walled garden, the sky was looking very threatening. It was great for photography, as the light was changing all the time. We had a really good discussion about exposure, and one delegate was dressed perfectly, in white and black, to demonstrate the fact that meters always want to turn things mid-grey.
The delegates loved the terracotta warriors. The sun came out as we reached them and it gave a really good range of light angles on the faces of the warriors. They are very easy to photograph; they don’t move and never get bored with modelling!
The clouds got even more threatening as we reached the house itself. The angling sunlight across the front of the house, with the dark rainclouds behind, made for a stunning image. There was an almost machine gun sound of shutters firing, and then, as quickly as it had come out, the sun went in. You must always take your photographic chances…
…and then it rained. Luckily it was nearly the end of the Trek, so we sheltered under a handy tree and looked at everyone’s project images. There were some stunning shots, and everyone had produced something they were pleased with.
A quick look back down the famous water garden, and another Buscot Photo Trek was over. It was our last Trek there for this year, but we hope to run some more next year, so keep checking our website for details, or sign up to our e-mail newsletter and we’ll keep you informed.
It was easy to choose a subject for this week’s blog post; last week’s Photo Trek at Buscot Park. We were at Buscot Park near Faringdon again, courtesy of Lord Faringdon, and it all came together very well. The weather, the location, and most importantly the Trek delegates, were excellent. They had a wide range of camera types, and a wide range of photographic experience.
Just before the Trek started I found a nice bit of wobbly glass and took an abstract image with my trusty Panasonic Lumix FX-500. To find out where it was taken you’ll have to visit Buscot Park for yourselves.
We started our Photo Trek near the Ticket Office, assigned the delegates their photographic projects for the afternoon, and moved on to a clump of trees nearby. Even on a bright sunny day like last Saturday it’s a great place to learn about the use of long shutter speeds and camera movement. It’s also chance for the delegates to gain the confidence to move the camera off the fully automatic settings. We had great fun with camera movement, subject movement and combining them with flash.
Here’s one of the delegates with invisible arms! It was taken with a long shutter speed as he was waving his arms up and down. There’s a little pop of flash as well to give some light in his eyes.
Our next port of call was the Four Seasons Walled Garden. It was full of colour and texture, and the sea hollies were a particular feature.
The wind was quite strong which helped the delegates to learn about the challenges of close-up plant photography, as a lot of the plants were moving around quite a lot. The sea hollies are very useful to show the changes that occur as a subject is viewed with the light falling directly onto it, or shining from behind it.
A new feature of the gardens at Buscot this year is the small army of terracotta warriors. They were a real hit with the group, as they allow practice at portrait photography, pattern pictures, and control of the depth of field.
Here’s a delegate hard at work with his Leica compact…
.. and here’s another delegate getting “up close and personal” with another terracotta warrior.
This what I meant about pattern pictures, and control of the depth of field. The front warrior is nicely sharp, and the others in the background are becoming less and less sharp.
As mentioned previously, the delegates each had a photographic project during the afternoon. The project here was “Red”. It really shows just how close some digital compact cameras will focus – there is a red leaf on the wooden bench. This macro focusing ability opens up a wealth of creative photography opportunities. You can see the image being taken here, and other images taken by the Buscot Park Photo Trek delegates on my website.
All too soon we had to return to the start point as our time at Buscot was up. I’d had a great afternoon, and so, according to their feedback, had the delegates.
We’re back at Buscot Park for another Photo Trek on Aug 14th. It’s fully booked, but there’s space on our 1-day Photo Trek on the Ridgeway near Wantage on July 31st. Loads of chances for great landscape images.
Last Saturday we had the first Photo Trek of the season down at Buscot Weir, near Faringdon in Oxfordshire. It’s a great location on the River Thames, and not too far from my photographic studio near Swindon.
When I’d researched the Buscot Weir Photo Trek I’d planned for all sorts of weather conditions, and I was delighted that the day dawned sunny, bright, and warm.
The weir pool looked peaceful in the morning light, so I shot a 6-image classic panorama, complete with swan. I used my Lumix Fx-500 digital compact, and stitched it together in Photoshop PS5. As with other Photo Treks, I took a selection of cameras; a compact, a superzoom compact, and a DSLR. Most of the time I ended up using the two compacts, as they both have full manual control, and are great for demonstrating techniques.
The trek attendees were an excellent group, with a range of photographic experience, and a range of equipment. What they had in common was a willingness to learn how to improve their photography, and they all had some great ideas during the day.
The Buscot Weir Photo Trek has an emphasis on water. The Thames splits into 3 parts at Buscot; one part going to the lock, one to a sluice, and one to the weir. There’s a lot of dramatic moving water, and it makes for great images.
This water shot was taken using my Panasonic Lumix FZ-50 superzoom compact. I chose a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second and an equivalent focal length of 420mm. The long shutter speed has given a nice blur to the water. We had to find a part of the weir out of direct sunlight, as the brightness was making selection of a long shutter speed difficult.
With this image, of water rushing under one of the sluice gates, I’ve used the bright sunshine to my advantage. The light was shining deeply into the water from the other side of the sluice, and it’s given a fantastic luminosity and colour. Shot with the FZ-50.
This image is of some rather more peaceful water. In a field near the river there’s a cattle trough. It was full to the brim with nice clean water, and for some reason it had a load of pebbles at the bottom. The sunlight playing through the water onto the pebbles made for a stunning semi-abstract image. An ideal subject for my FX-500.
Away from the weir we found a field full of grasses, buttercups, and seeded dandelions. It was hard to do the field justice by trying to photograph it all at once, so we concentrated on details. It was a perfect place to show the difference that changing your lens focal length can make.
The first image used an equivalent focal length of 24mm, and the second an equivalent focal length of 420mm. The first image gives a better idea of the relationship between the different types of plant. The second has a more abstract feel, due to the out of focus background. Which do you prefer?
This final image is of a swallow resting on electric cables at St John’s Lock which is upstream from Buscot. I loved the simple composition of one bird, the cables, and that wonderful blue sky.
So, an excellent day. The weather was great, the people were great, and it was a great learning experience.
There’s still some places on our other Photo Treks this year, so if you would like some photography tuition, ” al fresco”, why not come along?
See you soon,
There are signs of spring here in Southern England. The snowdrops are almost over, the birds are nesting like mad, and all of those lovely spring flowers are getting ready to pop out. What with the days getting longer as well, the winter hibernation of many photographers will soon be over too. So how do you get great photographs of the new season’s growth? Well, here are some photo tips.
It pays to get yourself down to the level of the plants themselves. What you are trying to produce with outdoor plant and flower pictures is something that sums up the plant/flower and its environment. If you stay at normal human height relative to the plant you’ll just get a shot of it from above. Drop down and you can simplify the image.
Here the snowdrops were in a raised bed which meant that I didn’t have to drop down so far. Here I’ve gone for three clumps of snowdrops, rather than isolating a single flower. Snowdrops look their best as drifts of flowers, with each clump of flowers relying on the others for the best effect, so I’ve tried to record that here.
If you can’t bend down or lie down on the ground to get a low viewpoint, it can be hard to see the viewing screen on the back of your camera. The Panasonic Lumix FX-500 compact digital camera that I used for the snowdrops picture, has a rear screen viewing angle option for where you hold the camera above your head. If you set it to that, and then turn the camera upside down, you can hold it closer to the ground and still see the screen clearly.
As another example of the simplifying effect of getting down to where the flowers are, here’s a shot of a cowslip (primula).
I’ve been able to make the flower the simple main subject. You can tell that the plant is growing in a grassy area, yet the background is not distracting whilst still having enough detail to give you an idea of the plant’s environment.
You can do this with other plant types as well. Here’s a shot of some catkins on a weeping silver birch tree.
I chose a low viewpoint that was level with the catkins (lovely word!), and made an image that had just two of the catkins and some newly emerged leaves. The leaves have that fabulous acid green colour that only spring can produce. By using a long focal length lens, I’ve thrown the background well out of focus. We cover how to achieve this sort of image on our outdoor photography training – the Gale Photography Photo Treks.
Finally, one of the classic flowers of Southern England is the snakeshead fritillary. They love damp areas, and I’m lucky enough to have them growing in my garden, by the pond. They are one of the few plants in nature to have a regular checkerboard pattern.
The ground was pretty wet, so I put a waterproof sheet on the ground and laid on that. You do need to be careful that you won’t damage any plants when you do this. The foreground plant was fully out, and the two others; one white, one normal, were still to flower fully. This gave a good contrast with the flower that was out.
I hope that you’ll try some of these techniques for yourself this spring, and perhaps I’ll see you on a Photo Trek soon.
Digital photography is wonderful! It allows you to experiment with your images when you take them, and experiment with them after you’ve taken them. You can be as creative as you want, and there don’t seem to be limits to what you can do. It’s really all down to your imagination.
Take this marshmallow for example…
I was trying some creative lighting techniques in the studio, and came up with the idea of illuminating the marshmallow from the inside. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but it worked really well. I reckon it made the marshmallow look like a mini “volcano”. Just a bit of contrast enhancement in Photoshop, and it was done.
You don’t need to go to extent of using a studio to get creative images. Here I’ve photographed a car rear light cluster using a cheap optical toy – an insect eye kaleidoscope – on a digital compact camera. It’s made a really interesting abstract image.
Again there’s not much post-processing done in Photoshop, just a bit of contrast enhancement, resizing and sharpening. I used my Panasonic Lumix FX-500 compact camera for this image, as the lens fitted nicely inside the toy. It’s a good example of the fact that you don’t always need, (or as in this case, can’t use!!), a complex DSLR to get great images.
The last image is a bit more complex as it’s actually three images combined. The basic images are of smoke, which has been backlit in the studio with a remote flash. You need to be very delicate with your movements and breathing when you’re taking smoke images because if you charge around, the air currents can completely spoil the smoke patterns. The fun, and colour, in this image comes from Photoshop.
I can’t put the whole process into this blog post, but basically I’ve taken one colour channel (Red or Green or Blue) from each of the three images, and recombined them into one new image. It’s great fun to do, and you can get a completely different set of colours by taking a different combination of images/colour channels.
My photography training workshop, “The Creative Eye”, is designed to help you to free your photographic imagination, so you can start experimenting with your own creative photography. At the time of writing this post (4th Feb 2010), there are still places on the February 20th 2010 course at Stanton House Hotel near Swindon.
So, what can you do with a marshmallow?